Security system coming to schools

Chad Frey
The Kansan
Police and school staff participate in a security exercise in Chisholm Middle School in 2017. The school system will be installing a new security system that will automate the notification of police of a gunshot in a school.

A new security system is coming to Newton USD 373 school buildings — one that will monitor who comes and goes throughout buildings. 

Part of a grant funded project awarded to the district, the system will feature vdeo cameras at entrances, electronic key cards, camers through out buildings and a system designed to detect gun shots. 

"This is one of the newest technologies to be released, developed by the U.S. Department of Energy," said Bruce Montgomery, Honeywell. Honeywell is supllying the equipment to be installed by DH Pace of Wichita. "It does not listen for the bang of a gunshot. .. Everytime a gun is fired it creates an enerv signal. If you have ever been around a weapon you can feel it. These sensors only look for the energy created when [a gun] is fired."

That technology, Montgomery told the U.S.D. 373 Board of Education, will allow for notification of police of said gunshot quickly

When a shot is detected, a text can be sent to hundreds of people simlutaneously — and 911 notified autimatically. That can pull minutes of the response time, as the average 911 call in a school shooter situation is made about two-anda-a-half minutes after the first gunshot. The system drops that notification down to four seconds. 

"This also can tell law enforcement exactly when and where the shot is fired," Montgomery said. "We can create a lockdown immediately and send police a video of where the closest gunshot was fired.."

It can also immediately activate the school public address system with a message of lockdown, that shots have been fired, and where those shots were fired. 

It removes the need of a 911 call, or the pressing of a panic button — both things that can slow the response time. 

"Our goal for years was 'get law enforecement there faster,'" Montgomery said. "Generally, the first call is coming in between 2 1/2 to 4 minutes from the first shot. That is simmply because people are running for their lives and there are a lot of bad things happening."

The system can initiate lockdowns and begin notifcations in four seconds. In most communities now using the system, a key card is placed in each police vehcile. That key card activates automatically when a gunshot is detected in the school. 

For the funding of this system,  the school district submitted a fedearal grant application for $375,000 committing nearly $125,000 in matching funds. In September the district learned of being awarded the grant, the only school district in the state to receive the award.

As a result, the district will install electronic access control systems in all 12 school buildings. That will mean electronic access points that can be used by law enforcement, buzzer control systems for front doors, outdoor video cameras, intercom systems and computer control systems.

The cost of the electronic access control system is $245,952. The EAC system will be installed at 48 entry points at 12 school sites. The price tag includes all hardware, software, computer services, servers, labor and wire. The system includes an outside buzzer, intercom and cameras so front office staff can see who is requesting entry prior to building access.

Installation of the new securtity system will be starting shortly — installers were planning walk throughs of buildings this week. The contract approved by the district dictates tht the system will be operational when school starts this fall. 

The grant funding of the project — more than $375,000 from the Department of Justice — was first applied for in 2019. The funds come from the office of Community Oriented Policing Services. The organization gave out nearly $50 million in school safety funding through the School Violence Prevention Program.